We moved into our house 8 years ago this summer, and on the day we moved in, I discovered I was now the owner of a giant rhubarb patch. I had so little experience with the stuff that I had to actually get its identity confirmed, but at the same time I was told to not eat it – it was midsummer, so it would be “woody”. I said okay and just moved it up near the house where there would be more sunlight, and forgot about it.
The next spring it grew up nice and strong, but along with it came huge stalks with flowers on them. I was told once again: Don’t eat it. It’s gone to seed. I said okay, and left it alone.
Third year it came up. The flowers came back right away. I was frustrated. Who wants an edible plant you can never eat?! By this time, we had the rest of the house and gardens well sorted, so I turned my attention to learning about rhubarb and discovered two things.
One, you actually can eat it after it goes to seed.
Two, you actually can eat it midsummer. You just have to change course a little.
So first, you wouldn’t actually ever eat the flowers, flower stalk, seed pods, or leaves. I’m sure you’re smarter than that, but you know… some people aren’t. Just don’t. You’ll make yourself ridiculously sick. The flower stalks and seeds will take energy from your harvest though, so cut them off and throw it away. When you do harvest, compost your leaves. They’re only poisonous to you (and rabbits), but the compost likes them a lot. You can read more about rhubarb going to seed here.
Second, when you harvest midsummer (for us, that’s late July, early August), don’t take more than 1/3 of the plant. It needs time to regenerate before winter, and for that it needs it’s stalks and leaves. If your plants are little, maybe leave them alone, but if they’re giant, mature plants of 15 years like mine, you should be okay. You can read more about rhubarb harvesting here.
There is some concern that a midsummer plant has higher amounts of oxalic acid. To save me from writing it all out, you can read more about that here. While some people have historically found that eating late summer rhubarb has upset their stomach a little, or aggravated their arthritis, this study shows that a 145lb human would have to ingest 11lbs of rhubarb leaves, in order to be poisoned.
So muffins are probably safe, not to mention I’ve been making them for years and have had no effects other than having a happy husband :D.
I adapted this recipe from an old coffee cake recipe years ago. The high heat and long baking time of a muffin is perfect for those woody pieces, especially if you cut your stalks into 1/4″ pieces. They still have so much juice to them that the muffins come out super moist, and the combination of brown and white sugar balances the sour taste of the rhubarb.
Adding a little cinnamon and nutmeg just makes it feel more seasonal 😉
Makes 20-24 regular sized muffins
You will Need:
Grease or line your muffin tin and preheat the oven to 400 F.
Add all of the ingredients except for the last two (flour and rhubarb) into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium-low speed for a few minutes, until well combined and slightly fluffy.
Add in the flour by 1/2 cup at a time, mixing on low speed. The muffin batter will become thick and will slightly resemble cookie dough. Mix until just blended, then stop.
Add in the 4 cups of chopped rhubarb. Mix on low speed for about 1 minute – the juice will begin to come out of the rhubarb and the batter will become more liquid and loose.
Scoop the batter into your greased (or lined) muffin pan. I prefer to use an oversized muffin pan for these, each one is the equivalent of two regular sized muffins.
Bake for about 20-25 minutes, until an inserted knife comes out clean. Remove them from the oven but leave them in their hot pan on a rack, for about 10 more minutes. After the 10 minutes, remove them from their pan and let them cool on a wire rack.
If you make large, oversized muffins, turn them upside down to cool on the wire rack. The moisture content of these muffins will stop them from “doming” on top anyway, and the smaller base won’t support the muffin while it’s still warm.
I usually wrap the cooled muffins individually and set them in the freezer, taking one out now and then as we want them. They go really well with a chai spice blend tea <3.